India v Sri Lanka : ICC Champions Trophy 2017 : Dr. Nilesh D. Mehta
A boisterous but partisan crowd cheered on every run India scored at The Oval during their Group B match against Sri Lanka at the ICC Champions Trophy 2017. On a cloudy June day in London, where the locals voted for their new prime minister for the next five years in the United Kingdom, Sri Lanka won the toss and put India in.
Lack of star power:
While India has a problem of plenty, Sri Lanka cricket in general is going through a transition phase. Players like Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Tillekaratne Dilshan have retired from cricket to make way for the younger generation under the leadership of Angelo Mathews. Sri Lankan team’s miseries continued as their skipper Angelo Mathews could not bowl due to a calf injury. He even jokingly mentioned in a press conference, “I ask Kumar to come back and play for us”.
Because of an over-rate offense in a previous match, Upul Tharanga missed this game adding worries to an already depleted side. As it turned out, they did not need the services of their missing star players.
Admittedly, the Sri Lanka skipper had mentioned that his team is under no pressure since the general sentiment was they are not expected to win against the mighty India team. It turned out to be a day of an underdog.
India’s batting : On top of his game – Shikhar Dhawan with a ton
India started sedately with yet another strong partnership between Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan as they put up a century stand which came in the 20th over. Rohit played some lovely drives plundering runs on both sides of the wicket, while Shikhar continued to meticulously organize his innings timing the ball delectably, helping India to a commanding 321 for 6 in this second game of Group B at The Oval. Shikhar’s penchant for this tournament once again continued as he gleefully amassed runs with his 125 off 128 balls.
The crowd was disappointed with Kohli being dismissed for a duck but certainly cheered Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s 63. Kedar’s Jadhav 25 propelled the score to 321-6. It appears that in this tournament and some of the recent ODI matches, getting 300 is a par score.
Sri Lanka batting dazzled :
Sri Lanka had different ideas especially with Gunathilaka playing some lovely straight drives and pull shots almost reminiscent of the great Sangakkara, especially an imperious six over mid on off Hardik Pandya. His partnership with Kusal Mendis was certainly quite productive and laid the foundation for a chase for Sri Lanka which had seemed somewhat improbable.
Pandya dropped Mendis off a tough caught and bowled chance. Mendis subsequently made the most of it by scoring 89 and also bagging the Man of the Match.
At 170-1, the combination of Umesh Yadav/M.S. Dhoni fielding changed India’s fortunes temporarily when Gunathilaka was run out. India’s strike bowlers were not getting any results and Kohli had to resort to other techniques. An unusual combination of Kedar Jadhav and Virat Kohli bowled in tandem with Kohli bowling three consecutive overs, again, without any success.
Even though Umesh Yadav and B. Kumar did not feature into the wickets early in Sri Lanka innings, their fielding prowess engineered two very important run outs to dismiss Gunathilaka and Mendis ( 159 run second wicket partnership) Those two run outs cheered the Indian fans albeit briefly on this cloudy afternoon in London. Unable to contribute with the ball, Angelo Mathews had big responsibility with the bat on his broad shoulders.
Kusal Perera’s pulled hamstring injury unfortunately left him with the option of retired hurt allowing Asela Gunaratne to fill his slot who disdainfully pulled Umesh Yadav for a six in the 44th over announcing his arrival at the crease. Sri Lanka made history by recording the highest ever successful chase in Champions Trophy.
Virat Kohli praised the victory by Sri Lankan players and congratulated them in the press conference following the completion of the game.
With this win by Sri Lanka, this Champions Trophy again is wide open with only England guaranteed a place in the semi-finals. It required a tremendous effort to chase down 322 by Sri Lanka against a strong pace attack of India. India will now face South Africa on June 11 at The Oval – a do or die game for both teams.